RIVCOconnect - Digital Divide

The California Emerging Technology Fund reported in its August, 2016 Field Poll that 30 percent of Californians do not have high-speed internet and a computing device at home, and that 57 percent of low-income Californians are “under-connected” — either dependent only on a smartphone or completely offline. In addition, the California Public Utilities Commission issued a report in April, 2017 documenting that 43 percent of rural households can’t get reliable broadband.
Many seniors remain largely disconnected from the digital revolution. According the Pew Research Center, one-third of adults ages 65 and older say they never use the Internet, and roughly half (49%) say they do not have home broadband services.
What this all means is that almost 12 million Californians, of which nearly 100,000 are Riverside County residents, are shut out from the digital economy. They cannot adequately apply for jobs, do homework, and get health and public services online.
"The number one benefit of information technology is that it empowers people to do what they want to do.  It lets people be creative.  It lets people be productive.

It lets people learn things they didn't think they could learn before, and so in a sense it is all about potential."

~Steve Ballmer

Internet Use Increasing

While there is an increase in all ages in using the Internet, there are many families left behind that either can't afford it or can't gain access to it.  Some refer to this as the Digital Divide
The National Association for College Admission Counseling recently reported that colleges and universities now receive 94 percent of their applications online, up from 68 percent in 2007 and 49 percent in 2005. And the Pew Research Center has shown that lower-income Americans continue to lag behind in technology adoption; the result, Pew reports, is that a technology gap between the rich and the poor is widening U.S. inequality.
The divide in capabilities between the most-connected and the least will define who gets the valuable jobs.”
~Ryan Hayes
When you’re speaking about the people who live in Riverside County, you have to keep in mind that there are a lot of us – almost 2.4 million people.  We are the tenth most populous county in the US and outnumber the populations of fifteen other states.  We live in a 7,400 square mile landmass almost the size of New Jersey and we can be found in urban, suburban and rural locations. 
We live in the desert, the mountains, in communities large and small, on Tribal Reservations and planned developments.  We are widely diverse in race and ancestry.  We are 47.9% Hispanic, 36.6% Caucasian, 6.2% Asian and 6% African-American.  78% of us are native-born and 22% have come to live here from another country.  60% of our households speak English only at home, with 40% communicating in their native language.  We are young and old, with 7% being five years old and younger, 23% in the K-12 age range, 33% are 20 to 44 years of age, 19% are 45 to 60, and the remaining 18% are seniors over 60.  In short, Riverside County does not look very different from the rest of the USA.
“Today high speed broadband is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.”
~President Barack Obama, 2015

It's Not Easy for Everyone!

Without a doubt, life in Riverside County is rich and rewarding for most of its residents!  We enjoy easy access to mountains, desert and the ocean.  We can shop for nearly anything we desire, attend cultural events, world class music festivals like Coachella and Stagecoach Festival, tour our high quality local wine region in Temecula, and are close to both beaches and mountains.  Our average family income is over $80,000 per year, with 27% of our families earning over $100,000.  Life is good in Riverside County. 
But wait . . . That rosy picture does not extend everywhere.  Consider the following:
  • 20% of all households are single-parent families
  • 20% of all adults over the age of 25 have no high school diploma or equivalent
  • 11% of our population is disabled
  • 13% of the population is 65 years and older
  • 15% speak English less than proficiently
  • 25% of all families and 32% of all households earn less than $35,000
  • 17% of all Riverside County residents live below the poverty line
  • Over 255,000 workers are forced to commute outside the County, with almost 20% of those finding their drive takes over an hour one-way

Digital Divide

To bridge the digital divide, not only is high speed access a requirement, but so is a computer or smart device and training on how to use it.  That is why RIVCOconnect has created a program to refurbish used systems and make them available to those in need after they complete a training program.

What Can Be Done?

Closing the Digital Divide is a critical success factor for the quality of life and economic prosperity of our residents in Riverside County.  We have taken action to launch a Digital Inclusion Program to help close the digital divide. 

Digital Inclusion Program

Riverside County's Digital Inclusion Program centers on the refurbishment and donation of surplus computers and related technology equipment.  The refurbished computers are donated to those who need them from throughout our community.  This includes students, parents, seniors, veterans, social service recipients, and organizations who serve and support these residents.  
In addition to computers we also provide computer training for those that need it, utilizing coursework prepared by Microsoft and reviewed by local educators.

Benefits 

Our Digital Inclusion Program enables residents to participate in our our digital world, including:
  • Opportunity for higher quality of life
  • Empowerment to take individual action 
  • Access to economic opportunities 
  • Basic participation K - 12 education
  • Participation in the local and global community
  • Provides the basic tools necessary to connect to family and friends through social networking and digital calling services
  • Provides everyone the opportunity to use health, financial, legal, consumer and social services
  • Builds a stronger economic community

Low Cost Internet Options 

Low cost internet options are available from three current providers within Riverside County.  They are:
Charter/Spectrum:  Spectrum Internet Assist
  • Through the Spectrum Internet Assist program, qualified households can receive 30 Mbps Internet service with no data caps, Internet modem included and no contracts required.  Add in-home WiFi for $5 more per month.  
AT&T:  AT&T Access
  • Through the AT&T Access program, qualified households can receive internet services ranging from 10 Mbps with no deposit or installation fees, no contracts required and wi-fi internet modem included. 
Frontier:  California Lifeline Discount Program
  • Through the Frontier's California Lifeline Discount Program, qualified households can receive internet services.   

Getting On Board

One of the goals of RIVCOconnect is that service be provided to all residents at an affordable cost, one that allows all residents to access high-speed connections to information, entertainment, health care, government services, employment opportunities, and educational growth.
The County of Riverside, in collaboration with its 28 cities, two councils of government, and participating tribal nations have adopted a common resolution of support the RIVCOconnect program.  If you want to support the program please complete the survey at RIVCOconnect Survey.
Additionally, Riverside County is committed to reducing its Carbon footprint by responsibly maximizing our surplus technology equipment.  The Digital Inclusion Program is a component of our County's “Green” strategy which provides more cost effective methods of handling E-waste.  

Staying Connected to Community

Broadband is now a utility that is expected within every home, business and institution, just as water, sewer and power are required for any community.
Riverside County residents need better access to our local communities as well.  This includes access to government services; to banking and online bill-payments; to news outlets and local bulletin boards; to keep abreast of local events and elections; to better participate in school activities such as lesson and homework submitting and performing research; to seek employment opportunities; and to make airline and hotel reservations to name but a few.  All this and much more requires Broadband connectivity.
Staying connected is an essential element of life for Riverside County!  Our residents – young and old, rich and poor, native and immigrant require high speed broadband services.

Unplug and Reconnect 

While connecting our community and bridging the digital divide is important, taking time to unplug and reconnect with family is equally important.